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Daimyō scroll.

[Title in English:] Flags of the different Daimios of Japan.

Japan: c. 1870 Stock Code: 127747
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Highly attractive and distinctly uncommon early Meiji-period scroll showing the flags of 29 daimyōs (feudal lordships) and giving details of annual revenue (recorded in kokus of rice, approximately 280 litres, originally defined as enough to feed one person for one year), provinces, capitals of their respective territories (or han), and the cadet branch of each clan, illustrated with flags for each, both the ō-uma-jirushi ("great standard") and ko-uma-jirushi ("lesser standard"). The scroll opens with the Hinomaru ("circle of the sun") and imperial chrysanthemum mon (or crest) above the standards of the Tokugawa shogunate (three hollyhock leaves within a circle). The sixteen-petalled Imperial Chrysanthemum Crest was first recognised as the exclusive emblem of the imperial household in 1868; the Hinomaru was adopted officially in 1854: "Japan had no national flag until 1854, when upon a petition by the lord of Satsuma han, Shimazu Nariakira, the bakufu military government determined that Japanese ships should fly a white flag bearing the Rising Sun emblem in order to identify themselves as Japanese. In 1870 the Meiji government, following the late Tokugawa precedent, decreed that Japanese ships ought to use the Rising Sun flag as the national flag" (Takashi Fujitani, Splendid Monarchy: Power and Pageantry in Modern Japan, 1998, p. 49). The British Museum notes that the flags are presented here "on western-style horizontal flags mounted on flag poles" and not in the Japanese manner.

This is a fascinating record dating to the advent of the Meiji Restoration (1868), which curtailed the power of the daimyōs: "On paper, the abolition of the old domains (and with them, the daimyō as well) and the creation of the new administrative units called prefectures seemed to be in 1868 the most politically dangerous of the Meiji reforms. Great care and planning went into this reform announced in 1871 lest the daimyōs fight it" (Louis G. Perez, The History of Japan, 1998, p.98).

Among British and Irish institutional libraries Library Hub cites only the copy at the Society of Antiquaries of London, WorldCat adds Harvard (both this and the SoA copy bound in book form); we have traced a copy at the British Museum (catalogued as "Flags of the different Daimyos of Japan") which survives as a scroll; only one entry on auction records (2013), apparently the present copy. A superb survival from the period of the opening of Japan, perhaps intended for the tourist market when foreign trade was being established, in effect acting as a guide to the leading families of Japan.

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Scroll (180 x 400 mm). Original polished bone jikugi (central cylindrical rod), pale brown silk tie.


88 hand-coloured woodblock flags on paper, text in English and Japanese.


Exterior a little darkened otherwise in remarkably good condition.


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